Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga is a contemporary Christian philosopher and I just acquired a freshly published book on him with that title edited by Deane-Peter Baker. Of course it is heavy reading and assumes a background in philosophy which I don’t have but nevetheless I find it challenging and interesting. I’m curious as to how a brilliant person like Plantinga can believe in God.

Perhaps I can give reports on my reactions to the various chapters in comments to this post. Wouldn’t it be miraculous if someone else actually made serious comments here as well! One could almost say that that would provide proof that miracles exist!

  1. Missy’s avatar

    I’m a fan of Plantinga. He makes great use of logic.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Thanks for your miracle, whoops, I mean comment, Missy. :-) I thought you might be a fan of Plantinga. But I fear I may have jumped in over my head with this book.

    I’m now reading about the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments for God in Wikipedia to help me with the first chapter by Graham Oppy entitled Natural Theology and in which he claims to prove that Alvin — why not call him Alvin? — first showed that the project of Natural Theology fails, and then in his middle works that the project succeeds, and then in his later works that it’s hard to determine. This project of Natural Theology is to show that the claim that God of the Judeo-Christian tradition exists “follows deductively or inductively from propositions that are obviously true and accepted by nearly every sane man…together with propositions that are self-evident or necessarily true.” Quite a bunch.

    Yes, it gets deep. More later?

  3. Missy’s avatar

    Interesting progression of thought. I’m not so familiar with all of his work that I could make that sort of distinction on my own. I did reread God, Freedom, and Evil last year and wrote a review of it here. In that work he seems to be indeterminate about Natural Theology, but he also shows that the primary arguments from Natural Atheology do not attain. Heavy stuff, for sure, but ultimate questions always are.

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Not having read any of his books, I am of course at a disadvantage in trying to understand this critique of Alvin’s thought. But I certainly get a sense from this book of the dense philosophical and logical reasoning that goes on in philosophical circles when ultimate issues are confronted.

    From your review and quotations from God, Freedom, and Evil I can see how Alvin has proved, by logic, that the existence of evil does not disprove that God is omnipotent and wholly good, only that suffering and misfortune will constitute a problem for the theist.

    And this seems to me to be quite a problem indeed, for how could God allow the torture of little children, for example. Also, at this late hour, I don’t understand how the Free Will Defense solves the main philosophical problem of evil. Wheew!

  5. Mardé’s avatar

    I was going to say, when I pooped out last night on my last comment, that the Free Will Defense doesn’t work for natural disasters, like hurricanes, floods, asteroids. So, this morning I did a google search and found this good description of Alvin’s Free Will Defense, in which is included the Natural Evil objection. But none of these arguments can be “simply stated”. Hey, these are philosophical debates; we gotta string out the logic!

  6. Missy’s avatar

    Well there are logical limits on what God can do. He can’t make a square circle, right?

    I tend to look at it like this (not couched in propositional logic!): if God created the universe and all of it’s physical laws, and if this is the best possible world, sometimes conflicts between good and evil will arise. Evil is not a created thing–it is a contingent thing. A tragedy for the zebra is a fine meal for the lion.

  7. Mardé’s avatar

    hmmmmm…. That seems to make sense. Well, I’ll have to think about that one. Thanks for the comment, and the other ones too.

    It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Western Maine. I’ve gotta get outside, for now.


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